Auto Focus versus Manual with 500mm or 600mm lenses?

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Russell
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Hi, Like many ametures I would love to own an auto focus 500mm or 600mm prime lens but even used you are looking at thousands of £ or $ so just wondered anyone who uses or used a (in my case Canon) long lens uses manual focus as a 500mm or 600mm manual focus only can be had for the 100's of £ or $ rather than the 1000's £ or $? Yes you can buy a Sigma, Tamron 150-600mm auto focus lens along with extras to calibrate and update for a lot less than the Canon, Nikon etc branded lenses even 2nd hand but with both Canon and Nikon you buy quality and also more light at F4, does that not having F4 make such a great differance in normal lighting conditions?
With camera ISO capabilities nowadays along with software like Topaz AI denoise does putting a 1.4 extender on and shooting at 580mm on a 400mm lens with high ISO to get shutter speed up really matter?
Remember this is aimed at ametures not those who make living from photography and maybe get tax reductions or specials from the makers who love to get any free publicity that may come there way. Thanks, Russ
 
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Sorry Russell, if I've read that right, I can't see your reasoning.

You would rather use a 600mm manual focus only prime lens for wildlife/birds over a Sigma or Tamrom 150-600 AF to gain 1 and a third stops of light?, It doesn't make sense.

As you say, modern cameras and available pp'ing techniques, it just doesn't seem worth not having AF
 
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I can understand your questioning....

I have a Nikon 400 2.8 Ai-S lens.... manual focus with a teleconverter to get to 560 etc. It's enormous - requires big (expensive) tripods, gimbals and monopods etc. It's so heavy that it's hard to take on aircraft as part of your carry-on luggage and generally, manual focus on a DSLR takes patience.

Therefore ... You're better off getting a super zoom and losing a stop of light... a grainy in focus shot is way better than an out of focus 'cleaner' shot.
 
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Phil, Thankyou for your reply. Really you have answered my question on the light side of things but what about the image quality from Canon/Nikon versus the Sigma/Tamron lenses?
I am looking at a new Canon 5D MK IV along with the Canon 100-400mm MK II lens, I have a 1.4 MK II extender and as I read it that would give me about 580mm at F8 so I am also trying to come to a conclusion on what to buy lens wise, yes the Sigma/Tamron would give 600mm at 6.3 rather than F8 but the Canon 100-400mm seems from what I have read gives much better image quality, the 600mm F4 manual was just a thought in the mix, my other concerns for both that 600mm manual and the Sigma/Tamron is the weight, not a young chap anymore so will be used on a tripod with gimbal but 100-400mm MK II also with image stablization ( although on most occassions the shutter speed would nul that option) could be hand held. Thankyou again for the reply, Russ.
 
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but what about the image quality from Canon/Nikon versus the Sigma/Tamron lenses?
Putting the Nikon versus Canon banter aside, I can't fault the image quality of me Nikon fit Sigma 150-600c, I absolutely love the lens. I've had it 4 years on 3 different bodies and fine tune AF has been set at 0 every time its been checked, its been like that straight out of the box.

I've been under a similar dilemma just lately, I've got some spare cash burning a hole in me pocket and a touch of GAS, a lethal combination! :LOL:

And seriously been looking at the 500mm pf 5.6. My biggest concern is, how much better will IQ be over the Sigma, hopefully there'll be an improvement. AF should be faster, its lighter but then on the negative side, its 4 and a half times dearer and I'll loose 100mm at the long end.

I have to ask Russel, what puts you off the cheaper end super zooms, have you had one and not been happy?
 
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I have the 150-600 C, love it, it will run my 100-400L very close. Pound for pound, it's a phenomenal lens.
 
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Phil, I am at a disadvantage at the moment as I live on Rhodes Greece (yes sunshine and all) but there are no camera shops as you would get in the UK or USA it is all geared toward holiday makers who want a small point and shoot when they forget to bring one with them.
I can only go from what I read online and the trouble with that is joe says " Canon 100-400mm MK II is a fab lens, everything you would need" then on the other side Tom says" Sigma/Tamron Fab lens, then Harry chimes in " the 150-600mm not so good, some soft images etc,etc" We are moving back to the UK when the situation there permits us to so and I intend to do a lot more Wildlife and bird photography, here on the island there are actually very few birds compared to the UK and what there are hide away, tried a bird feeder in the garden and in two years got not one taker so looking forward to photographing more and will be purchasing new camera and lens. Russ.
 
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I've heard more good than bad about the Sigma, I can't comment on the other lenses. No disrespect to any other togger but I've seen posts about the Sigma, and other lenses for that matter, saying its soft, it won't focus, ect. When it all turns out, its been user error, SS not fast enough, massively cropped to 10% of original, single point AF when it should have been on continues, ect

A birding mate of mine recently bought one to couple with a D500, he said he was going to look for 2nd hand, my advice, for £750, buy new. If for any reason he was unhappy or did get a 'poor' copy ( if there is such a thing) he could return/exchange it. He ended up buying one and loves it.

I don't usually push folks towards me Flickr, but if you fancy taking a look, you'll see loads of photos from the last 4 years taken with the 150-600 contemporary, a lot at between ISO 5000- 10,000, the only thing is, they've all been taken with Nikon bodies ;)
 
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Geoff
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Like others, I also have the Sigma 150-600mm C and even though an aperture of f6.3 is initially daunting, I've found the lens to be absolutely stunning. I understand from the OP that it's not for pro use, whereas I use mine for stock, but I'd give the same answer regardless. I'm a real pixel-peeper, yet I cannot fault the image quality of the lens. Mechanically it's cheap plastic that easily gets marked, and of course I'd love more of a pro-feeling lens. Other than the Nikon 200-550mm that I'm sure feels nicer (never handled it myself) there aren't any other choices for that sort of price. When I bought it around 4 years ago, most reviews I came across stated that the Sport version was optically identical, so maybe that's an option if you want better build quality (but heavier).

As for MF vs AF - Well I could not ever cope without AF for the sort of shots I take with this lens. I take lots of bird shots, and you often need to be quick and just don't have time to accurately focus manually to get pin-sharp results. For BIF, it's even more critical to go with AF. I've got many flying bird shots (with a Nikon D500) with accurate focus at 100%, without lighting having to be great. Of course I'd like a faster shutter at times, but when you can go up to at least ISO800 without any noise that can't easily be dealt with, I wouldn't spend thousands on something with comparable image quality but a stop wider aperture.

Regarding some user opinions of soft images & poor AF performance, bear in mind that sometimes people aren't used to using such a long lens. I admit it caught me out at first when I wasn't used to AF issues caused by heat haze, which is a real problem for distant subjects. AF is generally excellent though & heat haze is only rarely a problem when shooting birds that aren't too far away, but of course the camera's AF system plays a big part and I can only say that with my Nikon D500, after setting fine focus of course, it's spot-on and any lack of focus is down to the user.
 
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Russell
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Like others, I also have the Sigma 150-600mm C and even though an aperture of f6.3 is initially daunting, I've found the lens to be absolutely stunning. I understand from the OP that it's not for pro use, whereas I use mine for stock, but I'd give the same answer regardless. I'm a real pixel-peeper, yet I cannot fault the image quality of the lens. Mechanically it's cheap plastic that easily gets marked, and of course I'd love more of a pro-feeling lens. Other than the Nikon 200-550mm that I'm sure feels nicer (never handled it myself) there aren't any other choices for that sort of price. When I bought it around 4 years ago, most reviews I came across stated that the Sport version was optically identical, so maybe that's an option if you want better build quality (but heavier).

As for MF vs AF - Well I could not ever cope without AF for the sort of shots I take with this lens. I take lots of bird shots, and you often need to be quick and just don't have time to accurately focus manually to get pin-sharp results. For BIF, it's even more critical to go with AF. I've got many flying bird shots (with a Nikon D500) with accurate focus at 100%, without lighting having to be great. Of course I'd like a faster shutter at times, but when you can go up to at least ISO800 without any noise that can't easily be dealt with, I wouldn't spend thousands on something with comparable image quality but a stop wider aperture.

Regarding some user opinions of soft images & poor AF performance, bear in mind that sometimes people aren't used to using such a long lens. I admit it caught me out at first when I wasn't used to AF issues caused by heat haze, which is a real problem for distant subjects. AF is generally excellent though & heat haze is only rarely a problem when shooting birds that aren't too far away, but of course the camera's AF system plays a big part and I can only say that with my Nikon D500, after setting fine focus of course, it's spot-on and any lack of focus is down to the user.
Hi, Thankyou for the reply and information. From one Sussex man to another from what I have been reading the Sigma seems the way to go for times when you need extra reach my only concern (if you can call it that) is I like to micro adjust my lenses and I use Reiken Focal and again only from what I have read you need the Sigma dock for this lens? But the price of this 150-600mm is SOooo appealing for what you seem to be getting. Again Thankyou. Russ.
 
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Geoff
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Hi, Thankyou for the reply and information. From one Sussex man to another from what I have been reading the Sigma seems the way to go for times when you need extra reach my only concern (if you can call it that) is I like to micro adjust my lenses and I use Reiken Focal and again only from what I have read you need the Sigma dock for this lens? But the price of this 150-600mm is SOooo appealing for what you seem to be getting. Again Thankyou. Russ.
You're welcome Russ. I had forgotten to mention needing the dock in order to do micro focus adjustments. However, when I last re-adjustment all my lenses I remembered what a pain it was with the Sigma 150-600mm, so I didn't bother. With such a relatively wide aperture (less critical focus) and also the difficulties of testing it at infinity, the micro adjustments are just not worth bothering with. What I did instead was to get a few shots at different focal lengths at a rough distance I'd use to shoot something like a bird or duck, and set the overall fine-tune in the camera for the sharpest results. With that set and all the micro points reset to zero, I have not had any problem with sharp focus. Trying to set all those points (16 adjustments, each involving multiple shots), and often ending up not being sure which looks sharpest, I don't consider it worth it.

From memory, I think I may have even reset those micro focus settings for my Sigma Art lens too (it's only f4). I concluded that the dock is a bit of a gimmick, although maybe more worth it with a f1.4 or f1.8 lens. Consider too that Nikon lenses don't have that feature for even the most expensive of their lenses. So my advice is not to bother spending money on the Sigma dock, so just set fine focus in-camera at most needed distance/focal length, then check the results are sharp at a variety of other distances/focal lengths. If you're happy, you've saved a lot of time and a little bit of money.
 
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